LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James absorbed contact and tumbled to the court while his fifth 3-pointer in a three-minute span dropped through the net. The Los Angeles Lakers’ entire roster left the bench and crossed the court, gleefully picking up their leader while a sellout crowd roared.
“That’s what we’re all about,” James said. “Our team, anytime anyone is having success in the game, we cheer like it’s our own. So having that camaraderie, having that brotherhood, even though they’re beating you up, it’s just a pretty cool feeling.”
Nine days after Kobe Bryant’s death, the Lakers finally had an evening that felt like a return to normalcy.
Well, as normal as anything can be when King James is performing feats of basketball brilliance.
James scored 19 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter with that incredible 3-point barrage, propelling the Lakers to a 129-102 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.
James added nine assists and seven rebounds, while Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma had 18 points apiece as the Lakers beat San Antonio for the third time, sweeping the season series.
After the Spurs chipped away at the Lakers’ big lead late in the third quarter, James and Kuzma put the game away with a combined seven 3-pointers in 3 1/2 minutes to start the fourth. James’ shots seemed to increase in difficulty with each possession, but he buried them all.
“When the guy gets hot like that, it’s always fun to watch him,” Davis said, laughing at the Lakers’ group celebration after the final 3. “It wasn’t the plan. We all just kind of ran over there and jumped on him.”
DeMar DeRozan had 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in his hometown for the Spurs, who have lost five of seven.
San Antonio was outrebounded 58-28 by the bigger Lakers, and the Spurs grabbed only three rebounds in the fourth quarter while the Lakers went 16 of 24 from the field.
When asked what the Spurs can do when James gets rolling, coach Gregg Popovich quipped: “Make sure you get good pictures.”
Bryn Forbes added 13 points, but one night after the Spurs blew a late lead in a three-point loss to the Clippers, they returned to Staples Center and fell to 0-2 at the start of San Antonio’s eight-game road trip while a rodeo occupies AT&T Center.
“As a competitor, it’s what you want to play against,” DeRozan said of the LA back-to-back. “I don’t look at it like it’s being tough. It’s part of the job, part of the game, and as a competitor you want to compete against the best. You worry about the toll afterwards.”
The Lakers returned to a semblance of normalcy at Staples Center in their first home game since their emotionally-charged return last Friday for their first game following Bryant’s death.
Bryant’s two retired jerseys still remain isolated in a spotlight on the wall high above the court, and the Lakers crowd broke into a spontaneous chant of “Kobe! Kobe!” in the third quarter, and the chant returned in the final seconds of the game.